The Cast of “Empire” (ABC): Where Are These Black Actors Now?

The Cast of Empire

It was a sad day for fans when the final episode of “Empire” aired on April 21, 2020. Because it was an unexpected and early series finale, fans who had been enraptured by the show since the first season were left reeling by the unknown. Continue reading to see what the cast of “Empire” has been up to since we last saw them on our screens!

Taraji P. Henson

Before she found success on the cast of “Empire” starring as Cookie Lyon for 102 episodes on the hit TV show “Empire”, Taraji P. Henson starred in several other movies and popular tv shows. Her television roles before “Empire” include “Person of Interest” and “Boston Legal”. She is primarily known for her roles in films such as “Hidden Figures”, “Think Like A Man” and “Acrimony”. After “Empire” wrapped its final season in 2020, Henson starred in “Muppets’ Haunted Mansion”, “Annie Live”, and “Minions: Rise of Gru”. Her upcoming role in the remake of “The Color Purple” will be one to watch.

Terrence Howard

While Terrence Howard led a successful acting career as a Black actor for over two decades before starring in the cast of “Empire” as Lucious Lyon for 102 episodes, most of his career was in movies instead of television.  He has starred in two Oscar award-winning movies, “Crash” (2004) and “Hustle and Flow” (2005), as well as Oscar-nominated movie, “Prisoners” (2013).  He also starred in “The Butler” (2013), which was nominated for two BAFTA awards. Unsurprisingly, “Empire” was nominated for eight primetime Emmy awards and won several other awards. Since the series finale of “Empire”, Howard has can be seen in “Cut Throat City” (2020), “Triumph” (2021), “The Walk” (2022), “The System” (2022), and the mini-series “The Best Man: The Final Chapters” (2022).  He has four upcoming roles in various stages of production.

Jussie Smollet

Jussie Smollet began his career in the 1990s as a child actor. He had been casted for a few roles before making his big break with his role as Jamal Lyon in “Empire”. His acting career has been at a standstill since his final performance as Jamal Lyon in 2019 after only starring in a total of 84 episodes. Unfortunately, Smollet instigated a scandal by falsely claiming to the police that he was the victim of a hate crime in 2019, after which most of the crew and cast of “Empire” did not want him to return to the show. Since the scandal first broke, he has been through numerous court proceedings between 2019 and 2021, where he was found guilty of five charges. Smollet received a sentence in 2022 ordering him to serve 150 days in jail and pay a $145,000 fine for lying to the Chicago police about being the victim of a hate crime.

Bryshere Y. Gray

Bryshere Y. Gray did not have any acting experience before he was casted on “Empire” in the role of Hakeem Lyon. While still filming “Empire”, he starred in four other roles; “The New Edition Story” (2017), “Honey: Rise Up and Dance” (2018), “Canal Street” (2018), and “Sprinter (2018)”. Gray starred in “Empire” for a total of 102 episodes.  Since “Empire” wrapped production, Gray has unfortunately faced criminal charges for domestic assault and violating probation. It remains to be seen whether he will continue his acting career or not.

Trai Byers

Before his role as Andre Lyon for 102 episodes on the critically acclaimed, award-winning TV series, “Empire”, Trai Byers was a relatively unknown actor. His most notable role prior to being in the cast of “Empire” was as James Forman in 2014’s Oscar award-winning film “Selma”.  Byers met his co-star turned wife, Grace Gealey, while filming “Empire”, and they wed in 2016. In the three years since the final episode of “Empire” was aired, Trai Byers has starred in the film, “The 24th” (2020), the TV series “Harlem” (2022), and most notably, a role in August Wilson’s “The Piano Lesson” on Broadway.  His most exciting role soon to come? Fatherhood! Byers and his wife, his fellow former “Empire” co-star Grace Gealey, are expecting the arrival of their first child this year.

Ta’Rhonda Jones

Much like her fellow “Empire” castmate, Bryshere Y. Gray, Ta’Rhonda Jones did not have any previous acting experience before being cast as Porsha on the fan-favorite series “Empire”. Jones starred as Porsha in 99 episodes of the series. In the time since the series wrapped, Jones has starred in “American Gangster Presents: Big 50 – The Delrhonda Hood Story” (2021), “North of the 10” (2022), “Like Sisters” (2022), “Young Wild Free” (2023), and “My Valentine Crush” (2023).  Jones is also a well-known philanthropist in her native Chicago. Her foundation, Black Village Foundation, has given away food and toys at Christmas during the height of the Covid pandemic in 2020 as well as awarded business grants.

Gabourey Sidibe

Gabourey Sidibe took Hollywood by storm with her breakout lead role in 2009’s Oscar award-winning film “Precious”. Since then, she has consistently worked on a multitude of projects, often multiple projects in the same year. Before being cast as Becky on “Empire”, a role in which she appeared in a total of 98 episodes, Sidibe starred in another popular TV show, “American Horror Story”. Sidibe can be seen in “Asking For It” (2021), “American Horror Stories” (2022), and “The Prank Panel” (2022). Be on the lookout for her new TV series currently in preproduction, “1266”, about a fired employee turned phone sex operator.


Serayah was a relatively unknown actress before receiving her big break as Tiana Brown on the hit show. She certainly hasn’t let the end of her run on the cast of “Empire” prevent her from becoming a rising Black actress. She has had several roles in TV movies and TV series such as “Envy: Seven Deadly Sins” (2021), “Hip Hop Family Christmas” (2021), “Kingdom Business” (2022), and “True Story” (2021). She also starred in the BET original movie “Favorite Son” in 2021 and its upcoming spinoff, “Favorite Son Christmas”, coming out this year. Serayah has also continued to focus on her music career, releasing several singles and music videos in the years since “Empire” ended.

While “Empire” may be over, you can find another black TV show to become invested in by checking out Black Oak TV’s catalog of TV shows!

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